The Thing, review by Henry Kwan of the All Action No Plot Movie Club
In this age of Hollywood revisionism, the latest movie to be given the remake/reboot/prequel/sequel treatment is The Thing. Early trailers and press info indicated that this was most likely to be a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter movie despite the fact that it claimed it was in fact a prequel.
What we ultimately get is a mix of both remake and prequel. The plot follows very closely to Carpenter’s version with this movie sharing all the major plot points, themes, and even character types of that movie.
The film opens in Antarctica with a Norwegian science team locating the source of a distress beacon and stumbling on an immense alien spacecraft trapped under layers of ice in an underground cavern.
Enter our heroine, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is called upon by Dr. Sanders and his assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), who are part of the research team, to investigate the find.
Based on Mr. Sander’s vague description of their findings, Kate agrees to fly the 10,000 miles to assist them in the project. It is here we are introduced to two American helicopter pilots, Braxton, complete with Kurt Russell facial hair (Aussie Joel Edgerton) and Jameson, who seem like this movie’s approximation of the characters McCready and Childs from the 1982 version.
We learn that the scientists have discovered an alien being frozen in ice. After excavating and transporting the being to their nearby research base, the science team celebrate their find as the first human discovery of evidence of extra terrestrial life.
Not long after, the creature breaks free killing certain team members. Later on we of course discover that the Thing can disguise itself as any other lifeform. From this point on, the familiar sense of paranoia and distrust of the fellow man sets in.
What should be commended is the film’s retention of that sense of paranoia and fear of a faceless invisible enemy. We truly do witness the ingenuity of this creature as it pits one person against the other, killing as many people as possible and then assuming their identity, with the ultimate goal of escape. The fact that anybody and more than just one person could be The Thing does succeed in heightening that feeling of helplessness and fear of the unknown.
Gore hounds will be satisfied as there are some satisfying kills involving moments of gruesome impaling and incineration by flamethrower. The Thing itself was, for the most part realized very convincingly, using CGI.
The design is identical to the 1982 version with it being a very amorphous being. Constantly shifting in shape and becoming more like a mass of limbs as it absorbs every new kill. Very creepily, arms attached to The Thing do break off and become new beings in themselves. There were a few shots that had an ‘obvious CGI’ look to them but overall this Thing looks good.
Character development is non existent but not expected from a movie of this kind. We instead get that aforementioned extremely taught psychological tension where everyone is a potential enemy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the main protagonist serves to accommodate the audience’s perspective, offering many points of exposition regarding the Thing’s biological processes.
She also steps into the shoes of the ‘McCready’ role, having many violent confrontations with The Thing and playing a very relatable heroine. Joel Edgerton, who surprisingly is only in one third of the movie, really doesn’t say much, instead relying of his ‘Kurt Russell’ look and brash actions to carry him through the movie. I also thought it was somewhat amusing that at certain times he was emasculated in his encounters with the Thing in that he had to rely on Mary Elizabeth Winstead to save the day. The final act of the movie, takes the story a bit further by moving into ‘Aliens’ territory and is somewhat anticlimactic even with the tacked on fan service to the original.
Overall, the Thing looks and feels almost like a tribute movie in that you have virtually the same scenes, characters and setting as the 1982 version but instead of practical effects we have CGI and instead of Kurt Russell we have Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. So what we have here is a more of an ‘introduction to The Thing’ or ‘The Thing for beginners’ for a younger generation that may have missed out on John Carpenter’s movie. There is almost zero originality here, but for gore hounds and horror fans, it is a good guilty pleasure movie if you don’t expect too much.
My score: 2.5 stars